Lone voices - Arthur Honegger

'It seems to me that Honegger is one of the contemporary composers of greatest musical value. In spite of his "modernism" he refrains from going beyond certain limits. He has been influenced by modern tendencies, but he knows how to select some innovations and not others, while remaining faithful to what he may define as the idea of music - something so many contemporary composers have just abandoned' - Pablo Casals
Herbert von Karajan's recordings of Arthur Honegger's Symphonies Nos. 2 & 3 are the definite accounts and rank among the classics of the gramophone. The inlay above is from Alexander Rahbari's performance of the Symphony No. 3 which is committed but, hardly surpisingly, falls short of Karajan's searing account. But I am featuring the CD Rahbari made with the BRTN Philharmonic Orchestra in Brussels for its persuasive advocacy of the little heard Symphony No. 5 "Di Tre Re".

There are links between Rahbari and Karajan as the Iranian born conductor worked as Karajan's assistant at the 1980 Salzburg Easter Festival. Rahbari left Iran before the 1979 revolution and is now an Austrian citizen. He returned to Iran as Permanent Conductor of Tehran Symphony Orchestra in 2005 but left the post after six months over a dispute about low pay rates for the musicians. The photo below from the Rahbari's website shows him with Karajan in Salzburg. Rahbari is also a composer and his works tackling social concerns include a composition titled Hunger in Africa. His recording work includes opera for Naxos.

Honegger's Fifth Symphony was premiered in 1951 by the Boston Symphony Orchestra and was written to commemorate the death of Natalie Koussevitzky, as was Britten's Peter Grimes. The compact twenty-one minute Fifth Symphony deserves to be revived, as does Rahbari's excellent recording which also includes the composer's 1936 Nocturne for Orchestra. The CD was released by the Austrian label Koch in 1997, but is one of many casualties of Universal Music's 2002 acquisition of the Koch catalogue.

Read about a rare performance of Honegger's King David here.
Lone voices showcases musicians not featured in the 2008 BBC Proms, discover more lone voices here. Casals quote from Song of the Birds edited by Julian Lloyd Webber (ISBN 086051305). Any copyrighted material on these pages is included as "fair use", for the purpose of study, review or critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). Report broken links, missing images and errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk


Pliable said…
Email received:

Rahabari was also the founder of DISCOVER INTERNATIONAL records.

He then ran out of money the the very interesting catalogue was absorbed by Koch.

David Cavlovic
Garth Trinkl said…
Speaking of lone voices, I recall Russian composer Vyscheslav Artymov telling me, a little over twenty years ago, that Arthur Honegger's Symphony #3 "Liturgique" was perhaps the work of music (or twentieth century symphony) that had influenced him the most.

Have a good holiday.
Pliable said…
Vyscheslav Artymov - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vyacheslav_Artyomov
Garth Trinkl said…
(From Artymov's Self-description)

"I started to compose music seriously in 1958. Everything I
could hear around then suited me very little. Not only was
avantgarde music unknown, but so was also neoclassical music
like Hindemith, Barto'k, or Milhaud. Stravinsky was inaccessible.
It was not until about 1960 that some of Prokofiev's unfamiliar
works appeared on G.Rozhdestvensky's TV programs. We discovered
his 2nd-4th Symphonies and the operas The Flaming Angel and The
Gambler, in excerpts at that time. I passed through Prokofiev,
later - Stravinsky, and others, but the one work that impressed
me most was the Symphonie Liturgique by Arthur Honegger - even
to this day I deeply appreciate this work. Next came Edgard
Vare'se and finally Luciano Berio -the Sinfonia.

Besides this, my main sources included Russian folklore
(around 1965 I made several expeditions across the North of
Russia in search of surviving folk songs), Eastern traditional
music, and Romanticism. At various times I listened to Chopin,
Schubert, Scriabin, Wagner, and Bruckner...."

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